You don’t have to be a rocket scientists to help NASA navigate its Curiosity Mars Rover! NASA’s new tool AI4Mars allows anyone to help the agency navigate the Mars Rover over the Red Planet’s rocky terrain by doing a very important job: labeling images.
Though you can’t actually steer the rover (as it should be), you can help NASA’s Curiosity identify and label parts of the Martian terrain to help its navigation system avoid dangerous landscapes. The tool shows you an image taken from one of the rover’s many cameras. You are then prompted to draw polygons around the terrain, labeling it as sand, consolidated soil, bedrock, and big rocks.
The goal of this tool is to create a large database of identified images for the teams at NASA and the rover to learn from, helping it make better decisions when navigating. This open-source collaborative database of the Red Planet’s terrain will also help future Mars missions, including the upcoming Perseverance Mars Rover and more!
NASA’s description of the project says, “You’ll be using your superior cognitive and artistic abilities to label images from the Curiosity Rover, collectively creating the first open-source navigation-classification dataset of the Red Planet It will be used – like the cityscapes dataset – by teams to train rovers to understand Martian environments, laying the way for future missions to unlock the secrets of our nearest neighbor!”
This is not the first time NASA has promoted a volunteer-based collaborative effort for one of its projects. SETI@home was a similar public volunteer project that allowed anyone to lend their computing power, when not in use, to help sift through data from the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program.
NASA’s latest Perseverance Mars Rover, the new sibling of Curiosity, is set to launch on July 20, 2020. Though the launch window was pushed back 3 days, NASA has until August 15 to launch the new Mars Rover, or risk having to push the mission until at least 2022. This is due to the small window of opportunity when launching towards Mars on a steady flight plan.
The Perseverance Mars Rover will be carrying the first flying object made to fly on another planet: a Mars helicopter. The goal of the helicopter is to test flight capability on Mars and help in scouting the landscape for the Perseverance Mars Rover.
You can try out the tool on the AI4Mars website!
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